Gene Simmons & Ace Frehley
Enmore Theatre, Sydney NSW
August 31st, 2018
It is 2018, KISS, have existed on this planet for over forty years, and founding members Gene Simmons and Ace Frehley have had an on and off again creative relationship for most of this time. If we go back to the late seventies and immerse ourselves in the bands well documented history we can see that Ace was on the way out, his excessive partying was starting to take its toll and by the early eighties, he was gone. The juggernaut of KISS, however, surged on and hasn’t stopped. Through the eighties, they crossed paths, but not on any serious level. However, when we fast forward to the mid-nineties, MTV Unplugged, the dream reunion was set. Sadly, the fairy tale reunion, didn’t have a fairytale ending. Old wounds reopened and Ace was in the band, out of the band, in the band, and then finally out of the band, as Tommy Thayer took up the smoking guitar and spaceman make up for good; it would seem.
So how are we to feel in 2018 with Gene and Ace working together again? Well, I think we should feel blessed, put all of the crap behind us and focus on the music that we all love. Now I know the sceptics are saying that Gene only brought Ace out to play because he is flogging his extravagant box set, The Vault, and he wants as many people present as possible. Now, this may be true, but where ever the complete truth lies, they are sharing a stage again and I for one am very happy about it.
The Enmore has a nice feel about it tonight and people are sincerely here to celebrate and not focus on any possible negative. Obviously the audience is full of KISS, old metal heads, families and the odd curious muso. The room is not as full as it really should be, in my opinion, but as Paul Stanley said in Australia, on the eve of the Symphony show in Melbourne, “Lets celebrate who is here and not who isn’t;” prophetic words from the sage, which ironically pertained to Ace himself.
Ace hit the stage with Gene’s backing band. The band are in fine form and the audience light up, just as the stage does. Ace is very relaxed, non-committal in any emotional way and just goes about business. I must say the foundation of this amazing backing line up really sets the music up during the show. Ace, at times, as he has been for some time, is a little loose and sloppy, but not tonight. He is singing the best I have ever seen and he has a drive tonight that I think is unprecedented of his solos tours of Australia, and I honestly put this down to the backing band. The band churn through classics such as ‘Parasite’, ‘Hard Times’, ‘Rocket Ride’ and ‘Detroit Rock City’. But the highlights for me tonight were ‘Rip It Out’, ‘Love Gun’ (with drummer Phillip on vocals), ‘New York Groove’ and ‘Shock Me’ (with the smoking guitar solo). The last time I saw Ace was in support of Alice Cooper in Newcastle last year, and I must say that I have enjoyed the set a lot more tonight. It was great to see Ace play again, he always was, and will be, my favourite member of the greatest band in the world. But wow, you can’t understate the contribution of the backing band to this performance tonight.
It was a fairly quick change over and Gene hit the stage with the same backing line-up; a; be it with three guitars. Again, the audience lit up with the stage and the band burst into ‘Shout it Out Loud’ quickly followed up by a brilliant rendition of ‘I’; I love Music From The Elder. I must say, again, I was really impressed by the skill of this backing band, they are a bunch of hungry young musicians, who did nothing but impress the entire night. Now the set tonight was essentially as best of KISS, and no one was going to complain about that. They played classics such as ‘War Machine’, ‘Plaster Caster’, ‘Calling Dr Love’ and even ‘Love Theme From KISS’ (this was impressive and not predicted by me). Gene proved that he still has it, his ‘Charisma’ (which incidentally he did a great rendition of), presence, and love for what he does, is still very evident, and he was bloody funny too. His vocals were also strong and he sung everything really well tonight. The only track that left me a little flat was ‘I Was Made For Loving You’, as it was sung by a young Australian girl, please excuse my ignorance but I have no idea who she actually is, and it just didn’t work. Now the audience might not agree with me, but I would have preferred one of the backing band singing this.
As part of The Vault experience, punters who purchased the frugally priced piece, were able to get up on stage and sing gang vocals, the ladies sung ‘Do You Love Me’ and the blokes ‘I Love It Loud’. A real buzz for those involved, and this was clearly evident on their collective faces!! The band really didn’t let up in intensity from the start to the end of the set, and they quite honestly left the crowd wanting more. But the icing on the “desert,” as Gene put it, was Ace coming out to play the last two tracks ‘Deuce’, and of course, ‘Rock and Roll All Night’; “the Vaulters” also came back out for this one. It was amazing to see these two playing together again, a real treat, a buzz I won’t ever forget.
There was no encore, not major fanfare at the end, just a rock show; how it should be in my opinion. Both sets tonight were impressive, and no fan walked away disappointed! It is great to see these two important figures in rock history openly working together again, and this isn’t only great for the fans, but for Gene and Ace as well. They have shared so much together, conquered the world together and underneath it, despite whatever differences they have had in the past, they must see each other as family. An amazing night from two of “the best!” Lets hope we witnessed a precursor to a KISS reunion; again!!
Review by Mark Snedden
Photo Gallery courtesy of Mick Goddard (MickG Photography)
Please credit Wall of Sound and Mick Goddard if you repost.
Gene Simmons – Solo Australian Tour
with Ace Frehley
Sep 1, 2018 – Brisbane, QLD, Australia, The Tivoli